Situation: How Can We Develop a Generous Community?
How can you help your community become generous? Imagine your city as a place in which Christians are meeting the needs and partnering together to live with open hands.
We see a whole community catalyzing generosity. What’s going on? How can we form generous communities?
How can we get from here to there?
We noticed this year that, where we see Journeys of Generosity taking root, we often see a whole community of people catalyzing that. What’s going on? How can we help form generous communities?
We interviewed three leaders whose areas are becoming more generous. Marius (Romania), Dusan (Czech), and Laurie (South Africa) kindly offered their insights.
Scripture: Forming a Generous Community
In the New Testament, we see some radical generosity.
“All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.”
We see three communities at three different points in the early church, all coming together to be generous.
“One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world…. The disciples, as each one was able, decided to provide help for the brothers and sisters living in Judea. This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.”
“Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem.”
1 Corinthians 16:1-3
We see three communities at three different points in the early church, all coming together to be generous. Some meeting the needs of those in their own community (Acts 2), and some giving to the needs of others (Acts 11, 1 Corinthians 16).
But can these kinds of communities exist today? How are Christians coming together to form them?
Three Generous Communities
In Romania, Marius has gathered 15 business leaders from different churches in Cluj to ask, “How can we impact Cluj for Christ?” The group has explicitly decided not to be a branded community, like one that a global ministry tried to start amongst them. Instead, through their monthly breakfast, the Cluj business leaders have tasked sub-teams with hosting JOGs, overseeing the Global Leadership Summit, and undertaking other initiatives.
In South Africa, God gave Laurie a vision for a band of brothers to change the South African business environment and—ultimately—the African continent.
In Czech, Adam and Dusan convened a group of givers from across Czech for fellowship. Out of that emerged a semi-annual two-day retreat called the Czech Donors Forum.
Steps Toward a Generous Community
To understand how to form generous communities, we first need to look for common threads.
Common Threads in Generous Communities
- Conveners Gather Business Leaders from Various Churches
Each group is denominationally diverse.
Laurie: All the people we’re working with are from other churches.
Marius: No two are from the same church. We’re all from different churches. Mainly Baptist and Pentecostal.
How do they find one another? Marius knew some since childhood and others from business. God gave Dusan a vision of givers gathering from across Czech. The initial core group was united in its support for Josiah Ventures, but spread across various churches and Czech cities.
- Pursue Fellowship First
The communities are spiritual before they are financial. Christian business leaders feel the need for fellowship and business contacts. (These needs reinforce each other: we love to meet Christian business contacts.)
Dusan began with a group of givers to Josiah Venture among whom he wanted to create community.
I had personal relationships with four givers who didn’t know each other. I didn’t have a vision of starting a collaboration. I just wanted a retreat for them to meet.
Sharing their own stories was the best. One giver shared powerfully about his struggles. The feeling that you are not alone with your struggles. No one else has those struggles. We aim for relationships. It’s hard to find safe environments where they’re among their peers.
My desire and goal is a band of brothers….
My desire and goal is a band of brothers…. There’s a whole community of people who…will be used to bring the Kingdom. Business is a huge part of bringing righteousness. As they seek the King, they’ll become generous, because He’s generous. The guys leading those JOGs create a bond. They’re in battle together. That’s the band of brothers.
A good degree of knowing each other is important. “The Guild” is several Christian businessmen here in Cluj getting together to see what they can do to change and influence the city.
- Unite for a Homegrown Vision of Local Kingdom Impact
While they begin with fellowship, communities advance because God gives vision. Marius explained how community formed in Cluj:
In 2017, we were exploring JOGs. There were two other initiatives among business people: LEAD Impact [Cru] and The Guild [a homegrown group].
I was invited into all three. LEAD Impact didn’t catch on. It was too impersonal. People didn’t want to become a Cru local team. Our approach is better – no pressure. We’re here to learn from each other and help, but not form a pool of fundraisers. That gives us more freedom and flexibility. It makes it more attractive.
We started meeting once a month for breakfast and to discuss plans. We ask, “How do we put together things to change our city?” We set agendas for JOGs and other meetings. We decided to participate in GLS. We decided to [have a sub-team] go together to the Prague EGCC Summit. We explore local ministries and how we can help. It slowly grew from five or six to a group that we now call City Team with 15 families.
Note that leaders united around a homegrown vision and rejected a branded, organized effort from a global ministry. They like the global ministry, but the business leaders are entrepreneurial; they won’t be tools in that charity’s strategy. Rather, the business leaders developed their own strategy and use us (GP) as tools in their own strategy.
Laurie focuses on business leaders transforming a region for Jesus. She says:
The foundation of His throne is righteousness and justice. That doesn’t characterize business in South Africa. The Lord brought me here with a vision. That’s the vision from which JOGs fall.
What will God do to change the country? It stems from relationships and trust and a heart connection. Any chance we get to partner, we do it: in business, in JOGs, in sharing Jesus.
When the vision gets too specific and mechanical too quickly, trouble arises. Dusan shared an example of a giving collaboration that struggled:
In Northern Ireland, there’s a group that’s been very organized and generous. [Four families] formed a collaborative giving group three years ago. They pooled money for youth ministry. They wanted to raise an additional 25 percent for all twenty youth ministries in Ireland. They canceled it. They went [too quickly] to the highest form of collaboration they can think of [and it didn’t work].
- Promote Generosity to Express that Kingdom Vision
Each community formed around a vision more general than JOGs (and more general than generosity!). For Laurie, the vision was a band of brothers to bring righteousness to South Africa. For Marius, the vision was business leaders impacting Cluj. For Dusan, the vision was healing the isolation wealthy Christians experience.
Once the community formed around these visions, conveners offered Generosity Path tools as a way to fulfill the underlying vision. Laurie says:
I believe JOGs will be part of what God is doing in this community. I aim to be a reminder not of JOGs, but of the Kingdom. I don’t know that there’s one singular vision. Some have a vision for education and how it brings the Kingdom. For others, it’s bringing the Kingdom in a factory setting. It’s going to be God and His spirit prompting like-minded people.
I aim to be a reminder…of the Kingdom.
Marius echoed that approach:
My personal plan is from what I’ve seen is not to overdo the generosity piece. I don’t want to do ten generosity events a year, but I want to do two . People need time to let things settle in so that they can process and respond and get involved. Let that move them. People come experience the idea of generosity and then they react and move into action.
These communities, once formed, launch JOGs, but have also adopted EGCC, GLS, Next Steps, and American businessman Pete Ochs’s business course. Going forward, I believe these communities will be the most likely homes for Kingdom collaborations and TrustBridge nodes.
Marius describes this progression from trusting community to collaborative giving:
We’re not to giving yet. We’re still in early stages, and casting vision and what we want to do. We’re not yet analyzing projects or seeing how we can help [financially]. After being inspired by the Czech model, our challenge is to start the Christian Donor Forum (CDF) here in Romania. We’ve set a date for April 2019 that we’re going to have our first CDF.
Even in the Czech CDF, which met together for years, Dusan says:
We aim to build a network of relationships and trust. For some people it’s enough to just be connected relationally [and not necessarily give]. But in between meetings, there’s a core group that’s formed around the strategic giving.
In my next post, I’ll outline the steps that these communities believe lead to broad-based generosity.